Through The Fire
Disclaimer: I do not own the Home Alone movies, nor do I own any of its characters.
Long before The Wet Bandits ever thought about breaking into the McCallister house, Kate McCallister was caught up in a disaster when a bus collided with a gasoline truck. As the wreckage began to burn she realised she was standing in a pool of gasoline and thought she was about to die. But she was saved when a man on a motorbike rode through a narrow pathway amid the smoke and debris and pulled her onto his bike and rode out of there - moments before the truck exploded.
Kate fell in love with the man who saved her life that day but never saw him again - and she never spoke of being at the scene of the disaster, either. Three years later she was horrified when she recognised his picture in the paper and realised he was the same Marv Merchants who had broken into her house when Kevin was left all alone one snowy Christmas.
Years later when Marv suffers the return of a life threatening illness, he confides in Harry and tells him about the gasoline explosion - and confesses the woman he saved and fell in love with that day had turned out to be Kevin McCallister's mother. With Marv seriously ill and thinking about giving up on his fight for life, Harry decides to contact Kate and ask her to see Marv.
Will Kate be able to forgive Marv and help him find the strength to carry on fighting, will her love be enough to help him find the strength to carry on - can he still find the courage it once took to be the man who rode through the fire and saved her life? And will she come to terms with the fact that she has never stopped loving him, or will she walk away and close the door on the past forever?
This is a *heavily* emotional story that contains themes such as serious illness and post traumatic stress disorder, it's also a passionate love story of star crossed lovers against all the odds and is about how we all go through life's fire in different ways, and about the things that make life worth holding on to.
It's Rated T for some language and adult themes and situations and also some slash.
It was just gone eleven in the morning.
Kate McCallister had thought she was coming down with a bad cold, but after spending most of the morning in bed she had got up, got dressed, felt surprisingly better and decided to go out for a walk. The kids were all at school. Peter had offered to finish work early and pick them up later on because this morning she had looked like death, but as she pulled her jacket a little closer to fend off the early springtime breeze Kate guessed it was nothing at all; probably one of those twenty-four hour virus things that kids often brought home. Kevin brought them home all the time, he was only five years old and had not been at school very long, he was at the age where kids caught everything going and she guessed this time she must have picked it up, too.
She walked away from the house and headed off up the street, thinking a couple of hours shopping might do her good, it had been a while since she had treated herself to something new, maybe shoes or a new coat. She started to walk a little faster, feeling sure the fresh air was picking her up really well. Perhaps the walk would do her just as much good as the shopping trip.
By now, it was eleven thirty.
Far across town, down a quiet street, the back of Harry Lyme's van was wide open and Marv Merchants was helping him shift stolen goods into a rented garage.
Harry paused to open a box and when he saw the cracked and broken china inside he gave a sigh.
"This is full of junk, Marv!"
"No it's not!" He protested, "I saw all that stuff in a big cabinet and I got it all out!"
"You got it out by hitting it with a crowbar!" Harry reminded him, "You broke it all! This is no good now!"
Marv's eyes lit up and he smiled, offering a solution.
"I can glue it back together, Harry. Some of that stuff might be antique!"
Harry tossed the box back into the van and slid a large TV towards the doors.
"Who wants to buy broken antiques? Forget it, just help me with the TV."
As they carried the TV together and went into the garage, Marv thought again about the china.
"I'll get some glue. I can mend everything in that box."
"No, forget it. "
They put the TV down and Harry looked at Marv.
"If you really want to be useful, don't break anything we steal! And don't steal anything that's already broken, either!"
"I do try, Harry!"
As Marv looked back at him Harry remembered he wasn't the sharpest guy in the world and he stopped lecturing him - Marv did his best, but Marv's best wasn't that great. But all the same, they were close friends and nothing as trivial as a box of broken china would alter that.
"I know you do." Harry said, "But next time we pull off a job, don't take anything unless I say it's worth taking, okay?"
Marv nodded. Then he ran his fingers through his dark curly hair and fixed his blue eyes on Harry with a questioning look.
"Why do I mess up so much?"
Harry looked up at him.
"You don't mess up all the time, Marv."
Marv gave a sigh.
"Yes I do! I can't even steal stuff without breaking it! And last night, when we went out for a drink, while you was busy being a girl magnet I said the same thing I saw that other guy say when he left- but I got a slap in the face for it!"
"No, Marv - you saw a guy saying goodbye to his friends, and he was boasting about his bike. He said, I'm gonna ride off on my bitch now. But you sat down with that girl you'd got talking to and said I'm leaving now - wanna ride, bitch? And that is why she lightly slapped your cheek and walked away."
"I got the words mixed up. I don't know how you get so many girls, Harry, I just don't know how you do it!"
Harry smiled and his gold tooth sparkled. He ran his hand over his dark hair and his eyes lit up.
"I'm just a little guy with a lot of charm, Marv. It's easy to talk to girls - all you have to do is go up someone you like and say, Hi, I'm Marv, what's your name, how are you - it's not difficult!"
As Marv looked back at him he thought about how easy it was for Harry; he was a sexy guy and he knew it, too. He seemed to have a fool proof method of making a woman warm to him, he would sit beside her, say something to make her smile, then move closer. Then he would be talking some more, then touching her arm - and if his hand went to her thigh and he gave it a squeeze - he was sure to score that night. He made it look so easy. But Marv just couldn't perfect any of his technique. He couldn't even say something to a strange woman without messing it up.
"I try to be sexy." Marv told him, "I just get it wrong a lot."
"You are sexy." Harry told him, "You just don't have enough confidence, that's all."
As he spoke, Harry wanted to give him a hug but he was lifting stereo equipment out of the van now.
"This is the last of it." He told him, "You coming home with me, Marv?"
"No, I wanna go burn up the highway for a while."
Concern flickered in Harry's eyes as he thought about Marv's new toy parked outside the garage. As soon as they had sold some of the stuff they had stolen from their last two jobs, Marv had gone out and bought himself a motor bike. It was a powerful machine and although Harry had seen him handle it well and knew he had experience with bikes, it still didn't stop him worrying about his closest friend who was still a kid at heart and loved to hit a hundred miles an hour when he saw a stretch of quiet open road ahead of him.
"Be careful on that thing, Marv."
"I always am, Harry. I'll see you at home."
Harry watched as Marv got on his bike and then put on his helmet and slid the visor down. The bike roared into life and then he was gone.
"Please be careful Marv." He whispered as he watched him ride off, then he closed the back of the van, locked up the garage and got back in his van, guessing he would be back home at the apartment they shared a long time before Marv would - and while his best friend was out burning up the highway, he would be waiting at home worried about him until he came safely back through the door again.
Harry drove off and headed for home, by now Marv was tearing down the open road feeling a rush as he hit eighty miles an hour and the bike became a speeding blur.
By now it was almost twelve o'clock.
Kate was in town and window shopping. She glanced over at a boutique and thought about going inside, then she walked past another shop and found herself captivated by the window display of remote control cars and she thought of her youngest son. Kevin would love a car like that! Then Kate looked across the road at a clothing shop that had a huge window display of spring clothes for kids - that was when she decided; she knew where her money would be going today...
Just as she thought about crossing the street to go in the store, a girl came out of the door way with a woman who was holding several bags. Kate smiled at the girl, realising she looked a lot like her daughter Linny. The girl smiled back. She thought of her own kids and wondered why the girl was not at school today - there were no other kids about at this time of day, in fact the street was not very busy that today at all, she guessed she had chosen the right time to go shopping. She made a move to cross the road. She waited as a couple of cars passed by, their gleaming paint work shone in the sunlight.
By now, it was mid day.
Then a bus came speeding around the corner, making her step back a little and as she watched it pass the thought ran through her mind about as fast as the vehicle had passed her that it should have slowed down.
It didn't slow down. It couldn't slow down. It swerved, crossed into the other lane of traffic just as a tanker skidded to avoid it, but the skid came too late and the bus slammed into it sideways with a screech of wheels and burnt rubber and sent the the bus slamming into the shops across the road. Kate stared in horror, realising the bus had taken out at least three store fronts as it lay on its side amongst broken glass and rubble.
People were running, screaming, but Kate just stood there staring, wondering: Where was the little girl who looked like Linny?
Flames were flickering from the over turned bus, slowly at first and then the flames grew taller and higher as the spring breeze fanned them. Kate looked over to her left and saw the tanker had slammed into the other side of the street, from where she stood dust was starting to fall from damaged masonry and the side walk was littered with roof tiles and chunks of concrete. Here and there she saw people beneath it, some were moving, some were not. She could hear a sound like water running and for a moment thought of that tanker was full of water, it had already leaked all over the side walk and soon it would spill over to the bus and put the fire out.
She coughed as the air thickened with black smoke and suddenly that cold that had cut off her sense of smell this morning eased up and she now could smell what surrounded her; the realisation hit her just as she saw broken power lines thrashing up and down and sparking inches from the pool of liquid.
Kate stared at the burning bus and the sparking wires as the liquid continued to trickle towards the flames. The air was full of debris from the fire that carried through the air by the breeze, little floating pieces of soot that looked like black snowflakes falling gracefully. One brushed her cheek and she wiped it off, looked down and saw soot on her hand. She could barely see the sky above any more because the smoke was so black and heavy. That liquid was slowly running across the road now, soon it would meet flame and that would be the end of everything. Kate gave a sob and looked down at the ground where she stood frozen with fear. She guessed the one thought going through her mind right now would probably be her last : I'm standing in gasoline...
Marv had been burning up the highway when he had spotted the flashing lights of cop cars in the distance- they were in pursuit of another vehicle but he took no chances and slowed down, turned off and headed into town to take the long way home. As he turned the corner and almost hit a pool of liquid he pulled up sharply and stopped to take in the scene: There had been a huge accident; a bus was smashed into some store fronts and it was burning and a tanker was on its side leaking gasoline that was running ever closer to that fire by the second.
The road was littered with debris, there were bodies, he couldn't tell the dead from the living and people were screaming. He drew in a frightened breath and decided to get the hell out of there right now.
Then he saw her. She was a young woman with red hair and soot on her face, she was standing in that gasoline, staring at the flames as tears ran from her eyes.
"Just move!" Marv whispered breathlessly, "Why don't you just move?"
But she stood there, frozen with fear as the gasoline ran closer to the flames.
Marv made his choice - it wasn't a tough decision - there was a narrow pathway between him and the woman. It was smoky and it wouldn't be easy - but the bike could get through that gap.
He took a deep breath and sped through the smoke and debris and passed the fire and slowed the bike to a halt beside her. She didn't even see him because she was still staring at the flames.
He grabbed her arm.
"Get on the bike! This place is gonna blow!" He yelled.
She looked at him with a dazed expression and he grabbed her and hauled her onto the bike. As she got on behind him she put her arms around him and pressed her face into his back. She was sobbing.
"Hang on!" He warned her, not sure if she heard him or not. But there was no time left to tell her again, he turned the bike around and passed the flames, sped through the smoke, narrowly missing going into a skid in the gasoline as he managed to pull the bike up again, then they were out of there and he came off the road, mounted the side walk and picked up speed, heading back for the highway.
Fire engines and police cars and ambulances were speeding past them heading to the scene of the accident, but Marv rode past them all and sped up the highway, getting as much distance between the bike and the gasoline as he could. There was a boom in the distance and he looked back for a second and saw a monster of a cloud billow into the air that turned the sky behind them black. Then he turned off the highway and slipped the bike down a narrow road, carried on for a short distance and turned into a dirt track that led into a field. He stopped the bike, switched off the engine and dragged in a shaky breath.
"Are you okay?"
The woman was still clinging to him sobbing. He gently prised himself from her grip and got off the bike. He took off his crash helmet and took in a deep breath of fresh air and then ran his fingers through his dark curly hair.
"We made it!" He told her, "Did you hear me? We got out of there!" As he spoke his voice was shaking as much as the rest of him was and as he looked back at the smoke high in the sky in the distance his blue eyes filled with tears.
"I'm so glad we made it!"
Kate McCallister wiped the tears from her eyes.
"We did?" She wondered, still feeling shocked at the way everything had happened so fast.
He helped her off the bike. She looked up at the tall guy with blue eyes and curly hair who blinked back tears as he looked at the smoke in the distance again.
"We made it." He said again, "We got out of there. I'm so glad to be alive!"
Then he smiled and she smiled too as she looked up at the man who had saved her.
"We got out of there!" She exclaimed, "Oh my God, you saved my life! Thank you so much!"
She reached for him, he reached for her. Their lips touched, it was a brief kiss, then Kate flung her arms around him and clung to him.
"It's so good to be alive!" She told him.
"I know!" Marv replied.
They kissed again, tiny, brief kisses that became much more very quickly. Then their kisses became deeper and more urgent as they both clung together, both weeping tears of relief. Suddenly they were on the grass and Kate was running her fingers through his hair.
"You're so beautiful." Marv whispered to her, "I'm so glad I'm alive and I'm here to hold you."
" Kiss me..." She whispered back to him.
Their kisses and caresses grew more urgent and suddenly she was on her back and he was on top of her and she was gasping as he thrust against her, she clung tightly to him, meeting each kiss, each touch as they made love together, every kiss, every caress, every single moment he was inside her was urgent and desperate and after he finally cried out and trembled they lay together in the grass still holding on, their bodies still merged as one as they both knew nothing more than how good it felt to be alive, their togetherness had just confirmed it.
Then they separated and he held her in his arms and looked at her.
"What's your name?" He asked her, still feeling a little breathless.
She laughed, realising this was the first time in her life a man had ever asked her that question after she had been so intimate with him.
"Kate." She said, "My name's Kate McCallister."
She was still on her back and he was on his side now, looking down at her with bright blue eyes as the breeze ruffled his hair.
"My name is Marv Merchants." He told her.
Kate smiled up at him.
"Thank you for saving me, Marv Merchants."
Then she thought about the accident, the crashes, the gasoline and more tears came to her eyes.
"There was a little girl who looked a lot like Linny! She was in the door way just before that bus hit the store - next time I looked the whole thing was caved in!"
Marv gently stroked her face.
"No, don't think about the bad stuff - she probably got out in time."
As he spoke he smiled and his eyes lit up with optimism.
"Maybe a lot of people got out, Kate. You've got to think it's all going to be okay, because it will be. We got out, I'll bet other people did, too."
Then he looked at her questioningly.
"One of my daughters. I have kids. I'm married, too."
Marv fell silent for a moment, then he laughed softly.
"I was only saying to my best friend about half an hour ago that I never get lucky with a girl - I guess it's just my luck that when I do she belongs to someone else."
"Where's your friend now?" She asked him.
"He's fine." Marv told her, "He was on his way home in the van - no where near the accident. We live on the other side of town."
Marv looked into her eyes and felt an ache as he realised they would have to part soon.
"I wish I'd met you before." He said to her.
Marv looked at her face, her eyes, ran his fingers through her hair and hoped he would never, ever forget a single moment of their time together.
"I'll never forget you." He said quietly.
"I'll never forget you either." Kate promised him.
They kissed again.
"I know it was bad with what happened today but you made me feel so alive." Marv told her.
"I know, I feel the same."Kate said quietly. Then she laughed.
"You've got grass in your hair, Marv. Come here."
She took the grass out of his hair and then ran her fingers through his curls again. Their eyes met and as she looked at him Kate felt her heart miss a beat.
"I don't usually have sex with strange men!"
"Neither do I." Marv replied.
"With strange men?"
"No I mean with strange girls! That's what I meant. I'm not too good with knowing what to say sometimes - I'm not too smart, I guess. Harry's smart, he's my best friend. He always knows what to do and say, but I don't."
As he spoke to her, Kate watched him and listened: Marv came across as a very shy guy, he didn't have a lot of confidence and when he laughed and his eyes lit up he seemed to turn into a big kid for a moment or two. He clearly wasn't too bright, either - but she felt an ache in her heart at the thought of leaving him.
She had never intended to cheat on her husband like this - but she had never intended to find herself in the middle of a disaster zone, either. It had all just happened and she could only go along and accept it and be grateful that Marv had been there on his bike that day.
"I should get going soon." She told him.
Marv gave a sigh.
"I know, me too. We both have to walk away from this and forget today ever happened. Don't keep it in your head, Kate. If you keep bad things in there you'll get nightmares."
Then he smiled as he looked at her.
"Whenever I think of this day, I'll just think of you."
Kate felt a rush of love as she looked into his gentle eyes.
"And I'll think about you too, Marv."
He sat up and she did too, then Marv took a white cotton handkerchief from his pocket.
"Keep still, Kate -you've got some soot on your face."
He folded a corner of the handkerchief and wet it with his tongue and then gently wiped the soot off her cheek. As he did it she laughed.
"I did that to a tissue yesterday when my son got chocolate on his face!"
Then she thought about her children and how they had almost lost their mother and tears sprang to her eyes.
"I need to get home, my husband's picking the kids up from school later -"
Marv gave her the handkerchief.
"Don't cry, Kate." He said softly, "It's okay now."
Kate folded the handkerchief over and wiped her eyes, then she put it in her pocket.
"I need to go home." She said.
Marv got up and held out his hand and helped her to her feet. She straightened her clothing and looked into his eyes, then felt a sudden pain in her heart to think they would never meet again.
"I'll never forget you, Marv." She promised as she looked at him, feeling sure she would always remember him as he was at that moment, with his bright eyes as blue as the sky and his curly hair being blown about by the breeze as he looked back at her.
Marv looked at Kate and felt his heart pounding. He guessed this was what love at first sight felt like, and he wanted to feel this way again - but she had to go.
Kate glanced at the pathway up ahead.
"I can walk from here," She told him, "If I follow that pathway I can turn out into a street that leads into my neighbourhood. It's quite a long walk but I need to clear my head."
"Okay." Marv said, then he held out his arms for one more hug. Kate was there as soon as he reached for her, holding onto him and then looking up at him with tears in her eyes as they shared a final kiss. When he let her go she saw Marv was on the brink of tears too.
"I'll keep you in my heart." She promised him, "I'll never forget you."
Marv smiled and spoke straight from his heart as he looked into her eyes.
"I love you too." He told her.
Kate smiled back at him.
"Bye." She said, then she walked and walked and carried on walking, not looking back because she didn't want Marv to see the tears that ran down her face as every step she took away from him broke her heart a little bit more.
When she finally walked into her own neighbourhood, everything seemed ghostly and quiet and deserted, she guessed it was just seeming that way because the chaos of the accident was still ringing in her ears. She got home and closed the front door, then she took off her coat and hung it up, then she went into the bathroom and took off her clothes and stayed in the shower until she felt as if she had washed all trace of the accident off her skin.
She thought about Peter and the kids and how upset they would be, how shaken up they would feel to know where she had been and what she had witnessed. They didn't know - perhaps it would be better if it stayed that way; then none of them would have to know today was the day she almost died...
Then she put on a bathrobe and curled up in bed, at first when she closed her eyes she saw the flames and heard the screaming, then she thought of Marv instead and saw a field and a blue sky and remembered his touch and his kiss and the look in his eyes. Then Kate McCallister sobbed into her pillow aching for a man she knew she could never see again.
When Marv walked through the door, Harry was there in a second.
"Are you okay?" He asked him, "There was a big explosion- I heard it on the radio. Did you see it?"
Marv saw the fright in his best friend's eyes and guessed Harry had thought about him and got worried. He worried too much sometimes. Marv smiled, wanting nothing more than to make Harry feel better - he didn't need to know about the horrible things he had seen at that accident...
"I'm okay, Harry. I saw some smoke when I was on the highway - then I saw some flashing lights coming so I slowed down and drove back home."
Harry gave a huge sigh of relief.
"I was so worried about you!"
Marv looked at him and guessed he sure would have been if he knew he had driven his bike right into the heart of that accident...
"Don't worry about me, I'm fine." He said, and gave him a hug.
Time passed by.
Kate McCallister kept her secret, comforted by the fact that she had survived and knowing she was alive and with her family. And when her thoughts turned to the man who had saved her that day, she hoped Marv was okay - all she had was her memory of him but she kept it in her heart. She didn't see Marv Merchants again, but she often thought of him.
Harry and Marv carried on making a living from robbing houses - until three years later when they robbed the McCallister house and eight year old Kevin had made it all go wrong for them. Marv had thought the name McCallister was just a coincidence. He had never known where Kate lived - but when Kate had seen the picture of the Wet Bandits in the newspaper, she had seen Marv's face staring back at her and felt as if the floor had fallen out from beneath her feet. When life threw another crazy coincidence at her and Kevin wound up alone in New York when another family vacation had gone wrong, he had run into them again - and been responsible for their second arrest.
Kate had hugged her clever little boy who she cherished so very much and told him she was very proud of him to stop those guys from stealing all that money the way he did. Then she had shut herself away and cried because she wanted to hate Marv Merchants so very much, but a part of her still saw him as the man who rode through the flames to save her on that dark day so long ago. Despising him for his crimes was not enough. In the end, Kate wrote to him in prison.
She spelled out exactly what she thought of him, saying :
'I thought you were a decent man until I found out about the Wet bandits! But you are nothing more than lowlife scum! You broke into my house when my child was alone! I will never forgive you and I want you to now that. What we shared on that day you saved my life means nothing to me now. I want you to know that, because what you did cannot be forgiven.'
A letter came back eventually and it was scrawled in child like writing and littered with spelling mistakes :
'Kate sory, I am so sory, I didn't know it was your house. We was not Wet bandits we was Stiky Bandits last time Kevin got us busted. I don't mind it was Kevin, tell him I'm sory ok? Me and Harry are in jail for a lotta years. I dont write to good or spell but Harry wants to teach me. So can you write back to me? Please can we stil be friends, I stil love you even if you hate me so please write back . I AM sory Kate! - Love Marv.'
Kate read the letter more than once, but she never replied to it.
She thought she would never have contact with Marv Merchants ever again.
Fifteen years passed by.